BaaS promotes radical customer experience

Opinion piece by Tine Holvoet, Senior Research Associate at Vlerick Business School

“BaaS” (Banking as a Service) is becoming a fashionable business school acronym. Technically, BaaS aims at faster, cheaper and more transparent financial services, by seamlessly integrating as many service providers as needed into one comprehensive process. The popularity of BaaS doesn't just indicate the importance of a resilient IT architecture. It also proves that user centricity is a true disruptive driver in the financial services ecosystem. More explicitly than before, we see the user being put at the centre: EU regulation regards citizens as managers of their own personal data, fintech conferences push behavioural economists to the main stage and financial institutions seem to replace the formalistic and legalistic with the quick and frank. People and personalisation seem to oppose the statics of the former brick branched banking sector. Moreover, marketing and IT teams are slowly escaping their silos, having green tea lattes in their flex desk areas and sharing one mutual core business: CX or customer experience.

I may hope it is not all about mere cost saving,” states Wim Mijs (European Banking Federation) at the 2017 EU Fintech Conference in Brussels, “otherwise the banking sector is a dinosaur that deserves to die”. “Cost saving and closing branches is certainly not going to do the trick” confirms Rainer Lenz (FinanceWatch). “We should remember that we focus on the needs of people”, concludes Malin Omberg (Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority). Are we going back to good old consumer basics? Yes. Nevertheless, Silicon Bay fanatics are still awarded for solving zero world problems. Remember Yo app (Yo does what it says, it sends a neat ‘Yo’ to your friends which also have the app), iBeer (a simulation of a beer can that empties itself as you tilt it) or Noti-fly, a 2016 app popular with master students because it texts you if your fly is undone? Can we expect users to demand more and change providers? In general, people are not highly educated in financial services. Perhaps we just cannot expect users to formulate what they miss or what they really need?  

The first conclusion from our 4th FinTech Futures event on radical CX is that there isn't anything particularly radical about CX in financial services in Belgium today. There's lots going on with personal profiling and customer segments but little about solving real problems or drastically improving slow and expensive services. Because the UK is always one step ahead, we can learn from examples such as Monzo Bank, Revolut, Seedrs and WorldRemit. These companies explicitly share responsibility of this disruptive moment. They prove that to have the right culture and attitude, they are not merely designing a brand but are also invoking a new legal regime. And for sure, they don’t believe that cost saving and closing branches will do the trick to revising financial service. 

Alice Newton-Rex is VP of Product at WorldRemit, a fintech start-up that helps migrants send millions of pounds back to friends and family in Africa, Asia and Latin America each month. She leads the product and design teams at WorldRemit and her superpower is empathy. She stresses the importance of tech ethnography and doing research with real users. Her advice: “Have your employees talk to customers at least one day a month.” Based on intense worldwide user research, WorldRemit is providing a consistent omnichannel service, offering customers a consistent experience across all touch-points of a brand, both online and offline. Their secret ingredient? Attitude.

Alice Newton-Rex - WorldRemit

Attitude, simplicity and relevance were also recurring themes in the talk by Jeroen Ghysel (CIO) and Xavier Gys (Chief Marketing) from AXA Bank Belgium. Our guest speakers approach CX from a no-nonsense angle, indicating how an organisational shift can help to avoid empathy gaps between front and back office. There are no squads or tribes at AXA Bank Belgium, awarded best Belgian bank of 2016, but a simple collaborative model where marketing and IT teams merge. the bottom line - “CX is a people’s business and a matter of matching personalities within the organisation”. In their talk for FinTech Futures, Jeroen Ghysel and Xavier Gys showed how their teams mutually contribute to AXA Bank’s digital story.

Finally, Hilde Van Dyck (Paper Plane Pilots) added the element of play to this FinTech Futures session. She invited Pepper to join the event. Pepper is the first humanoid robot that can perceive emotions and adapt his behaviour to the mood of his interlocutor. In co-creative workshops she plays with Pepper and uncovers what the robot could mean to financial institutions and how play can catalyse new ideas and business models. The robot links back to our previous FinTech Futures session on AI and Deep Learning, more precisely to the challenge of getting the knowledge into the bot. The conclusion of Nik Baerten (Pantopicon) is striking: “Oh boy, Pepper has to get his ass kicked”. As clearly, the Pepper we saw, was no corpus of information yet. Again, it is clear that we need trainers more than developers to teach these cognitive systems. Nevertheless, Pepper’s presence generated about 250 selfies at Vlerick Business School that night, which brings us to Hilde Van Dyck’s most important advice to companies regarding creativity: provide room for a pony, a non-designated space for play!  

Looking for an update on today’s challenges in financial services? With FinTech Futures we share new, independent and impactful views on technology, regulation and user experience. Experience future scenarios first hand, get a grip on today’s buzzwords, participate in our fintech network! Contact Tine.Holvoet@vlerick.com or @TechTine. 

Tine Holvoet holds a track record of multidisciplinary collaborations. She recently shifted her focus towards innovation and disruption in the global financial services sector. Not exactly being the typical finance girl, she is exploring new formats for knowledge sharing and experience exchange on finance. Together with Prof Bjorn Cumps she has set up FinTech Futures, a format to share new, independent and impactful views on technology, regulation & user experience.

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